We talk about some of the *best* albums out there!
Though of course, we always recommend the absolute best to both each other and to you guys as well, so no worries on that end 😉
Welcome back to the J-Music Exchange/Rate! If you’ve been following this series (or the blog in general) you probably already know that the Exchange/Rate is the tandem album review series between myself and Al from Omunibasu.Blog, wherein every month we go and trade Japanese music albums from our respective libraries based on a theme we decided on before hand, for the other person to talk about and review.
The Exchange/Rate has been a fun way of getting ourselves more entrenched into this shared hobby of ours, where more often than not Al would toss me an album by a band or artist whom I myself might have not had the chance to listen to prior (and vice versa), so while we do offer up this series as a way to to introduce to you some of our favorite bands and artists, do know that we ourselves are also in this journey of discovery along with you guys. I believe I can speak for Al when I say that our only hope is that these album revies have been as fun for you guys to read through and follow as it has been for us to do (if not even more so 🙂 ).
As I mentioned earlier, the albums that we weill be reviewing for the month are chosen based on a them that we determine between ourselfs, and this time it was my turn to decide on it. I figured that since American Thanksgiving is happening this month, I thought if we could talk about albums that, in a way, “give thanks” to bands/artists in the form of “Best Of” albums.
I went ahead and chucked over one of my personal favorite “Best Of” albums in SCANDAL’s ENCORE SHOW (check out A’s review here!), whereas Al also throws us a bit of a familiar name by giving us SHISHAMO’s SHISHAMO BEST to review.
The Kanagawa-based three-piece SHISHAMO is named after a specific kind of fish that’s native to Hokkaido (hence the fish motif that can be seen on the band’s logo). According to vocalist Miyazaki Asako, the idea came from her sister, who thought that the word “shishamo” when written in Kanji ‘looked cool but sounded cute’, which she figured was a lot like how she saw the band as. Miyazaki didn’t think much of it, as she mused that the band would retire once they graduated high school anyway, so the name didn’t really matter. SHISHAMO remains to this day as one of the most successful and well-known Japanese three-piece Girls Rock bands.
０３・量産型彼氏/ryosan gata kareshi
０５・夏の恋人/natsu no koibito
０７・君とゲレンデ/kimi to gerende
０８・僕に彼女ができたんだ/boku ni kanojo ga dekitanda
１０・君と夏フェス/kimi to natsu fes
１２・水色の日々/mizuiro no hibi
Ａ ｌ : Since 2012, the all-female alt-rock trio SHISHAMO has provided us with some fantastic songs about love, relationships, the ebbs and flows of the summertime season, and even a track about band-aids. With their specific style of music, as well as their youthful lyricism and narratives, the band’s songs have definitely resonated and been relatable to a lot of teenagers and young adults, especially when it comes to the new and strange concept of romance. Whether it be a song about a complicated relationship between two people or someone who’s dying to tell everyone that they’re dating a cute girl, the way SHISHAMO combines these adolescent stories with catchy and emotional music is something that I, and many other people, have enjoyed for a while now.
Despite me having a couple gripes regarding the group’s 2019-released best album, I believe that the song lineup in SHISHAMO BEST is very, VERY good. Especially for those who haven’t really listened to SHISHAMO a ton, this album definitely does a great job at showcasing what this band is about, their particular approach to making music, as well as how much their sound has evolved over the years. Obviously the heavy hitters like “Kimi to Natsu Fes” and “Ashitamo” are there but I’m glad they also included some underappreciated songs like “Ryousan Gata Kareshi” and “Hora, Waratteru”. And even though I was genuinely shocked that certain songs didn’t make the cut, ones that I truly believed are some of the greatest tracks this group has ever released, SHISHAMO BEST is still full of amazing bangers that everyone should listen to.
＜Ｓｏｎｇｓ ｏｆ Ｉｎｔｅｒｅｓｔ＞
I’m sure some of you guys who have been following the J-Music Exchange/Rate would remember might be able to recall that the first album review we’ve ever done here was for SHISHAMO’s SHISHAMO 3, which for the longest time has been viewed as the best album by the group. In that regard, I actually found myself in a bit of a unique position for the first time in that, I’ve already gone and talked about a song I otherwise would’ve featured for this review in the song Nettaiya; which, as some of you might remember, ended up being my favorite track off of SHISHAMO 3. As such, I’m inclined to pass it up in favor of talking more about their other songs here.
Not that there’s any shortage of songs *to* talk about in this album, starting with what would be the “newest” one here in OH!, which is a bit of an interesting song to lead us off as it gives us a baseline on what to expect from SHISHAMO. In my review of SHISHAMO 3 I noted that the band had a clean and polished sort of sound to them, and I would like to believe that that continues to ring true here, if not even a bit more so than before. Nothing feels out of place. It’s a strange thing to be pointing out as that’s generally something you would want to be hearing, but the reason as to *why* I feel the need to point it out perhaps best shows itself in the tracks to follow.
Nee, comes to us only a year removed from the release of SHISHAMO Best, being a song that had originally come out as part of SHISHAMO 5 as that album’s lead-off track. While this would still largely be past the point in the timeline of SHISHAMO’s releases where I credit the cleanliness of the band’s overall sound, Nee actually struck me as an outlier in the midst of all that for a fair number of reasons, with all mostly stemming from just how different the approach is when you compare this song to OH! despite still sharing fundamentally the same elements to them. Putting it in more concrete terms for the purposes of this review, we’ll refer to this as ‘organicness‘
If you listen to the two songs side by side, you’ll be quick to notice that the overall song structure remains the same for the most part, following a straight-forward and fairly standard verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus-outro arrangement with a guitar solo squeezed in right down the middle. However in comparing and contrasting the two, OH! (for myself at least) comes across as being played in a more controlled environment and sounding more ‘produced’ as a result, whereas Nee feels like it has more organic singing and guitar-playing. It could very well be just in the way the two songs were recorded, but I do personally believe there to be a difference that we can highlight.
A difference that quite interestingly appears to rear its head the “older” we get in SHISHAMO’s discography, with BYE BYE here being originally released a year prior to Nee (though also appearing in SHISHAMO 5), and two years removed from OH! and SHISHAMO Best. As a quick little side note; SHISHAMO has, without fail, released a new album each year following their sophomore album all the way back in 2015. So while a two-year interval between songs might not seem like that long of a gap in relation to that, it’s also because the timeline of their releases are so close together that the deviations in their sound become become that much more apparent.
What we have here in BYE BYE is more of that organicness that we had in Nee, but amplified even further with its marked emphasis on instrumentation. The backing Jazz/Pop-style keyboards adds an extra touch of spontaniety to a song that already has its fair share of lively licks and riffs, absolutely killer base lines, and even some ad libs on the part of vocalist Miyazaki Asako. All of these mixed together make BYE BYE sound more… natural especially in comparison to the earlier two songs. While we can again most certainly point towards the recording environment being the reason as to why that is, we’re now seeing a precedent the further along we go.
This is gonna be something unprecedented (at the very least with regard to how I’ve been doing these reviews for the most part), but I wanted to go out of sequence for this last song that I wanted to highlight for SHISHAMO BEST to better solidify my thoughts on the album as a whole, with the song that actually comes before BYE BYE in Boku ni Kanojo ga Dekitanda. This would be the oldest song in terms of its original release date that’s featured on the album, being a good six years removed from when SHISHAMO BEST came out, as well as being a song that was released as part of SHISHAMO’s debut album SHISHAMO back in 2013 as *that* album’s lead off track.
Now, I opted to do this for a few reasons, most of which I’ll promptly go over in just a bit when I go over how I felt about the album in general, but I want you guys to try and listen to this song side by side with the other songs I picked out. This is about as raw of a sound as we’ll probably get to hear from SHISHAMO, which… doesn’t really say a whole lot considering the areas for improvement is clearly only marginal even just as they were starting out. As mentioned previously however, because the band largely sticks to the same song structure it’s interesting to hear the differences in decision-making with how certain parts of the song are played out
＜Ｗｈａｔ Ｉ ｔｈｉｎｋ ｏｆ ＳＨＩＳＨＡＭＯ ＢＥＳＴ＞
I’ve always thought of “Best Of” albums, from a CD/physical release perspective, as a bit of a… strange product. Al goes over about it back when he himself talked about SHISHAMO BEST back when it first came out, but the thing about “Best Of” albums is that they really are just a compilation of songs that already exist in some form or another, typically a band’s/artist’s most popular ones at that. Granted there *are* times when said songs end up getting remastered for these “Best Ofs” or an entirely new song or two gets thrown in the mix, but for the most part they do end up being this playlist of a band’s/artists “Greatest Hits” as they tend to be called, in CD form.
While that would where most of the “criticism” with regard to “Best Of” albums lie (including my own), listening to SHISHAMO BEST made me realize something that these kinds of albums that most other regular albums wouldn’t have. Because “Best Of” albums span multiple years of activity, sometimes even the entirety of band’s/artist’s career, they serve as a wonderful way of chronicling their musical journey and seeing (rather hearing) their development and growth, as well as the many changes they and their sound have gone through, all in one concise and streamlined package that is purposely designed to showcase the the many heights they’ve achieved.
When I first approached Al with my idea for this month’s theme for the album reviews, I suggested we do one about tribute albums; the kind where different bands and artists pay tribute to a specific band/artist by performing covers of their songs through one collaborative effort. Later on this was changed to us talking about “Best Of” albums instead and, over the course of both listening to SHISHAMO BEST as well as writing this review, I found that “Best Ofs” are themselves also a tributory work, albeit one for the band’s/artist’s themselves. In a way they can be seen as a celebration of a band’s/artist’s efforts, materialized and condensed into a singular release.
４ ｏｕｔ ｏｆ ５
８ ｏｕｔ ｏｆ １０
“Best Of” albums are literally designed to be able to showcase the “best” that a band/artist has to offer, so in a lot of ways, my rating SHISHAMO BEST could be seen as a reflection of how I would rate SHISHAMO’s songs as a whole. That being said, and Al touches on this too in his write up, this album isn’t entirely representative of the other things that the band is capable of. Of course, that just goes to show the limitations of condensing six or seven years of releases in only thirteen songs. Taking that into consideration, SHISHAMO BEST might be better served as an introductory work for people looking to get into SHISHAMO’s music for the first time.
Ngl, it was not at all intentional that Al and I ended up doing a Girls Rock double feature for this month’s J-Music Exchange/Rate, especially one between two of the most highly reknowned names in the genre in both SHISHAMO and SCANDAL, but hey, things like this happen sometimes (lol)
At any rate, what do you guys think of SHISHAMO BEST? Likewise, what do you think of “Best Of” albums in general? Let us know in the comments section down bellow! I’d also be curious to hear some of *your* favorite “Best Of” albums, so feel free to share that in a comment as well 😀
Lastly, don’t forget to check out Al’s review of SCANDAL’s ENCORE SHOW over at Omunibasu.Blog! I won’t spoil it for you guys, but it’s a fairly… unique “Best Of” album 😛